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‘War Crime’ Suit against Canadian Firm that Builds in Yesha

Is it a “war crime” to build for Jews in Yesha? An Arab village wants a Canadian court to convict a construction firm that “conspired with Israel."
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/23/2009, 10:02 PM

Israel news photo

The Arab village of Bil’in is asking a Canadian court to fine the company for violating “war crimes” by building homes for Jews in Modiin Illit, located west and slightly north of Ramallah. The $2 million lawsuit is the first time that a war crime charge is being used in a civil court suit in Canada.

An Israeli court already has ruled against a claim that the deceased mayor of Bil’in is the true owner of a plot of land located near the separation fence, and a lawyer representing the defendants charged the plaintiffs with taking “one more kick at the can.”

The Bil’in village council is suing Green Park International Inc., Green Mount International Inc., and the firms’ director Annette Laroche for "aiding, abetting, assisting and conspiring with Israel" to build homes on the land.

Ronald Levy, the lawyer representing the two companies, told the Quebec Superior Court it cannot justify continuing with the case unless the deceased mayor is determined to have been the owner of the land. "The courts in Israel have already determined he's not, therefore this action is in bad faith and abusive,” he said.

'War Crime'
The suit was filed under Canada’s War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity Act of 2000, which states that an occupying power that transfers civilians into the area is guilty of war crimes.

One unusual aspect of the case is that Laroche is being held responsible for building projects that began in 2003, five years before she was named director. "She never had any knowledge of what the corporations were doing," Levy told the court.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported, "They [the plaintiffs] know it's a legal long shot, but if the Quebec Superior Court even agrees just to hear their case, it would be a partial victory, set an international legal precedent, and it would be a public relations coup for the small village.”

The Bil’in council argued that the construction also violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the protection of civilians in times of war and occupation, the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Civil Code of Quebec.